Perfume. Through the sense of smell, they harken memories, associations, and personal life events. A whiff can transport you back to a time and place that will never again recur. Inspired by Into the Gloss’s latest post on your signature fragrance, I’d like to share a brief synopsis of my personal history via perfume these past 24 years.
Why wear perfume?
Some may say a perfume is a luxury, a decadent indulgence, a frivolity perhaps. I say that perfume is an art form and that the power of fragrance–which typical forms of art such as a painting, sculpture or tapestry lack–is that it relies on us to use entirely one sense (that of smell). And the sense of smell is so strongly correlated to our own human memories which is why perfume preference is so unique, so personal and each signature fragrance speaks volumes about who you are and at what point you are in your life.
Why the preference for niche, boutique fragrances over mass market perfumes?
I’ve always been a stickler for quality in all aspects of my life. I appreciate the best leather I can get for my money and equating the money I spend on things for myself with the quality I’m getting out of it. Perfume is no exception. While I’ve worked and liked the scent of numerous mass market perfumes, I find that most of them do not use a high percentage of fragrant essential oils, essentially diluting the fragrance with alcohol so the fragrance does not last long on the skin. This is one of the reasons why I love Ormonde Jayne so much – they’re committed to incorporating high-quality oils in their perfumes and incorporate ultra unique ingredients like black hemlock, oudh, saffron, dates, and osmanthus amongst many others. Their fragrances smell like no other due to the unique ingredients they incorporate which are often too expensive to mass produce. While I’ve purchased several mass market perfume in rollerballs (so easy to travel and touch up with), they’re often unmemorable aside from the initial “Oh that’s nice/sweet” reaction.
- Victoria’s Secret vanilla & sandalwood body lotion – not a perfume in the typical sense of the word but it harkens memories of a beautifully whipped texture of body cream along with a slightly complicated yet still sweet scent that vanilla lends. Memories of applying this as hand lotion was one of my few luxurious bedtime rituals as a teenager.
- Bvlgari Eau Parfumée Au Thé Blanc – my first “adult” perfume that wasn’t something as light as a body splash. The Four Seasons Hotel in NYC uses this fragrance for their complimentary toiletries. My memories associated with it include being around my high school friends, reminiscing on the ephemera of time that only a fragrance based on white tea could concoct.
- Ormonde Jayne Ta’if – I chose this after being on a mission for a unique rose scent that would be unlike anything available on the market. After much research into making the most of my money, I ultimately chose Ormonde Jayne not only for the extremely high concentration of natural essential oils they use in all their products, but for the exemplary customer service I received when in return for my humble request for a few sample vials, they sent samples of vials from their entire perfume collection. Rose, in combination with saffron and dates, creates a wonderfully mysterious fragrance; not like that of a classic English rose but one whose complete story will never be truly known.
- Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman – this is one the first fragrance I bought once I got to college and with a unique superstar ingredient like black hemlock, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. It’s one of those strong, dark fragrances that you will never forget after you come across it – the fragrance lingers upon sweaters, scarves. At once soothing yet powerful to stand on its own. One of those perfect fragrances for cold autumn days when you need a constant aphrodisiac to envelop you.
- La Maison de la Vanille Vanille Divine des Tropiques – my first vanilla perfume. I purchased this sight unseen as a London fashionista who I greatly admired at the time had this in her collection. The scent would be universally appealing – chipper, melodic, sweet vanilla with copious florals (tuberose, hyacinth, jasmine, gardenia) that are somehow enveloped in additional sweetness. It’s a shame it only comes in Eau de Toilette – only lasts but a couple hours on the skin before you need to spritz more away. Excellent on hot summer nights when you just want to smell as sweet as the fruits in bloom.
- By Kilian Cruel Intentions – a wonderfully, seductively noir scent which I came across one dizzyingly hot summer day. It was my go-to fragrance on nights out for awhile. While I don’t love it anymore as I find the oudh overpowering, dark and heavy, its scent reminds me of summer nights with adventures just around the corner, re-invention, revelry and rebelliousness. To a degree, it was a costume I inhabited as it helped me get into character as a devil-may-care femme taking on NYC my very first summer there.
- Yves Saint Lauren In Love Again – I discovered this scent at the tail end of my time in Paris at Le Bon Marché, probably the most exquisite department store in the entire city (it beats out the touristy and ever-so-crowded Galeries Lafayette). It had been a rewarding but difficult time abroad; sampling this reminded me of optimism, hope, comfort and familiarity. I ultimately purchased the bottle when I returned to NYC, my last summer working there as an undergraduate – fresh floral scents like these are just so easy to handle in hot, humid summer days.
- Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus – I would be remiss if I didn’t write an ode to my current everyday fragrance. I’ve been wearing this for more than a year now and while there are times when I find the unique osmanthus flower a bit too strong, the dry down is simply wonderful and seductive. My fiancé accidentally wore this perfume when we were traveling (it was in a decanted spray bottle) and I remember thinking that was the best he ever smelled! Turns out this fragrance on a man is utterly sexy too. It must be the drydown of Cedarwood, Musk and Vetiver that allow this fragrance to be so universal. This perfume has been with me through many important life events – during my adventures as a young 20-something in NYC and during my move from the East to West coast. I never thought I would come across a fragrance line where I would’ve bought 3 of their 17 perfumes. I’ve witnessed the growth of Ormonde Jayne since I first came across it in 2009 and it has been a privilege to have this brand’s perfumes embedded to be integral in my life.
What fragrance is next for me? I’ve been loving vanilla candles in the home and would love that in a perfume, something pure and exquisite. Was thinking of revisiting Maison de la Vanille but it’s a shame no boutiques in Seattle carry that as far as I’m aware. I did love a sample of Ormonde Jayne’s Ormonde Man which I sampled several years ago – it’s so smoothly seductive and a little less bright than Ormonde Woman. I’ve had a loyalty to this brand for years now, one which I intend to maintain. Luckyscent is also a godsend of a perfectly curated perfume shop – ordered a few samples of vanilla and rose-based perfumes to try out. If any make the cut, they’ll be sure to be featured here.